As we move further into fall, the reef action is coming into its own.
Off the main reef line in 100 to 130 feet of water, there has been some sailfish activity. It's certainly no frenzy yet but those putting in the time are raising a few fish. Live ballyhoo and goggle eyes are the baits of choice.
In close proximity, good numbers of king mackerel are making a showing, with most fish on the smaller side at 10 to 12 pounds.
In the 70- to 90-foot areas on the reef edge, black grouper are popping up in ever-increasing numbers every week. On the reef itself, fishing for yellowtail snapper has been very good, with no particular depth outperforming another. The fish are a real mix of sizes ranging from just-legal 12-inchers to flags over 22 inches.
Black grouper are popping up in ever-increasing numbers every week.
The patch reefs are alive with loads of yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper. The yellowtails take all manner of cut baits and shrimp, while the mangroves and muttons prefer live ballyhoo, pilchards or small pinfish.
Some of the patches are offering up cero mackerel. Most are in the two- to four-pound class, but there are also some big ones pushing 10 to 12 pounds. A fair number of red and gag grouper are in the same areas, with live baits the key to catching them.
Hawk Channel is beginning to produce a few keeper size fish. The action in the channel venues will improve over the next couple of weeks as the waters cool down.
Bayside, there are plenty of mangroves up to three pounds or so. Chunks of ballyhoo or pinfish are the best baits. There's also an abundance of blacktip and spinner sharks for those looking to tangle with something a little bit bigger. They'll eat just about anything -- bluefish, jacks, bluerunners and even whole ballyhoo -- fished under a float. You'll find these toothy critters in just about any of the areas you're catching the mangroves.
The week's best
After the big blow last week, the SeaSquared boats got back out for some nearshore fishing. Our anglers caught mangroves and yellowtails and had a lot of fun with sharks.
Capt. Chuck Brodsky is back to Islamorada from his summer in Montana. Richard Pollack from Pinecrest, Fla., and two friends from South Africa, Alec Anderson and David Andrew, braved turbulent winds and rough seas to catch more than 100 fish in a morning half-day trip in the shallow waters off Sprigger Bank. Their haul included snapper, sea trout, mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish and eight other species, all caught on light, eight-pound spin tackle.
Capt. Moe Mottice of Moe's Lucky Fleet in Key West says his light-tackle boats have been fishing on the patch reefs and in Hawk Channel, where they're catching nice muttons and yellowtails along with the occasional grouper. There are still a few tarpon in front of Fort Zachary and, if you chum hard with any cut bait, you can get them to eat. And the sharks are still pulling hard in the backcountry.
Capt. Chris Johnson specializes in offshore, gulf/bay, reef/wreck, sailfish, shark and tarpon fishing with SeaSquared Charters in Marathon. You can reach him at (305) 743-5305, http://SeaSquaredCharters.com and http://Facebook.com/MarathonFishing.